Northern Ireland’s Focus Farms Programme will end on 31 March this year. On the basis of all objective criteria it has exceeded every objective agreed for what is universally recognised as an innovative, farmer-led training initiative.

The tremendous visitor numbers recorded and the level of follow up requests from visitor for additional information from the host farmers is testimony to the success of the programme.

“However, there remains an opportunity for those farmers who have not yet participated in a visit to get out on-farm over the coming eight weeks,” explained Focus Farms and Benchmarking Liaison Manager Eamonn Matthews.

“The programme provides farmers with a unique opportunity to gauge at first hand best practice within a totally commercial setting.”

He added: “The programme is centred on visits to 58 Focus Farmers covering all of the main farming enterprises that feature on local farms. A key attribute to the success of the programme is the fact that so many of the farmers have continued to invest in their businesses. As a consequence, those farmers signing up to take part in a Focus Farm visit over the coming weeks will have the opportunity to view a host on new technologies, again operating within a totally commercial. These new technologies include robotic milking systems, the use of GPS within the arable sector and innovative animal identification systems.”

The Focus Farms’ initiative is funded under Axis 1 of Northern Ireland’s Rural Development Programme. Its core aim is to contribute to the creation of a more competitive agriculture industry through the provision of farmer-led training to farmers.

Matthews went on to confirm that the Focus Farms programme has been structured so as to allow the host farmer engage at length with points brought up by individual visitors.

“Peer training has worked in other sectors of industry for many years. The good news is that the approach has gained a foothold within local agriculture, courtesy of the Focus Farms Programme,” he commented.

To participate in a Focus Farms telephone: 0845 0267536.